Driving the backroads of Wicklow In The Shadow of Sugar Loaf Mountain

Jean takes a picture of Sugar Loaf Mountain - - Wicklow - Ireland

green country road - near Oonagh Bridge - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

After leaving Powerscourt House, our drive became very interesting because Bob and I avoided using the main thoroughfares.  Instead, we took to driving the back roads in County Wicklow in the Shadow of Sugar Loaf Mountain.  We were on a search for adventure.  Bob and I loved the canopy of trees that spanned the carriageway from one side of the road to the other, creating a living, green tunnel.  It was reminiscent of our drives on the country roads in England.

Sugar Loaf Mountain with Yellow Gorse growing on its sided - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

Sugar Loaf Mountain was never far from our view, and around every corner, another spectacular view of lush green fields framed with hedgerows presented itself.  I reveled in the beauty of the slopes that were covered in dense masses of yellow for as far as the eye could see.

Jean takes a picture of Sugar Loaf Mountain - - Wicklow - Ireland

I captured some lovely photographs of the surrounding hillsides and farms even as we moved along in our car.

Gorse growing on hillside - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

Frequent stops were required to appreciate the picture-perfect vistas that came into view.

country road - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

Bob and I originally debated on whether or not to rent a GPS unit, but I tell you, we were sure glad that we had.  With such a maze of secondary roads crisscrossing the countryside, and nearly non-existent road signs, we would’ve been lost without it.  As it was, we were able to relax and appreciate the beauty of the island that unfolded before us with Sugar Loaf Mountain not far away.

Chris works race horse in paddock - Onagh Farm - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

At one point along a stretch of the roadway, when Bob stopped the car so that I could snap a photo of the rolling Wicklow Mountains, I noticed a gentleman training a horse in a nearby paddock.

Onagh Farm - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

It was then that we took note of the sprawling acreage of what was Onagh Farm.

Chris works horse - Enniskerry - wicklow - ireland

We learned from the trainer that he used to work at Woodbine Raceway in Toronto, our hometown. Chris Malone was his name, and within minutes, he asked if we would send him a photo of the horse after we returned to Canada.  Of course, we said yes, and at Christmastime, I sent a few photos, enclosed within a greeting card.

Chris with race horse and Sugar Loaf Mountain in distance - Onagh Farm - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

The horse that Chris was working had been retired for 6 years and was only then being re-introduced to the saddle.  It was a sleek equine specimen even if a bit antsy.

Irish stallion - Onagh Farm - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

Knowing the proclivity of the Irish for horse races at the track, and the reputation for well-bred racehorses in Ireland, Bob and I thought our short interface with the trainer was very fitting given the locale.

Gorse growing along road - Lackandarragh Lower - Wicklow - Ireland

As we continued on, the idyllic, pastoral setting did nothing to suggest the danger lurking beyond many of the corners.  It was not uncommon to round a bend in the road and come up short where a car had been parked, right in the middle of the carriageway with the owner nowhere in sight.  We surmised, in those cases, that the driver had gone for a hike on one of the many nature trails along the way.

hikers near Lackandarragh Lower pathway - Wicklow - Ireland

In fact, at one point on our route, cars had to give way to a bunch of hikers sharing the tarmac.  The group was hard to miss as we approached from behind because they occupied the whole roadway.  We promptly pulled over, hoping for a chat.

Jean takes a picture of hikers - Wicklow - Ireland

The avid walkers were out for their daily jaunt, but they were more than pleased to take a quick break because of the very warm temperatures.

hikers near Lackandarragh Lower - Wicklow - Ireland

Being in the spring when Bob and I visited, vegetation was flourishing all  over the countryside, and no less bordering the side of the carriageway.  Even the ample shade did nothing to lessen the hot temperatures that everyone was enjoying for so early in the season.

Bob films Gorse growing near hiking trail - Lackandarragh Lower - Wicklow - Ireland

Bob and I took advantage of the hikers’ knowledge to learn about the shrub that was so prevalent everywhere.  Masses of the yellow blooming bushes spread behind us up the knoll at road’s edge, and in chatting with the locals, I learned that this is the plant known as gorse.  I have come across mention of gorse plants in many novels that I’ve read, so I was pleased to finally become acquainted with it.

Gorse growing near Lackandarragh Lower - Wicklow - Ireland

Gorse, it turns out, is an evergreen shrub that thrives in dry, sandy soil.  Tiny leaves on green stems are adapted to withstand harsh dry conditions.  As we drove about the countryside, we saw these shrubs used as hedgerows where they easily reached a height of 10 feet.

yellow gorse plant thorns - enniskerry - wicklow - ireland

The gorse shrubs were so heavily loaded with bright yellow flowers that at first we didn’t notice its substantial thorns.  Upon closer inspection, I was shocked to find such lengthy spikes in amongst the plant’s blossoms.  They could be downright dangerous.

Gorse flowers and thorns - Lackandarragh Lower - Wicklow - Ireland

As if to confirm my suspicions, the hikers then informed us that the nasty barbs can cause serious rashes if you get scratched by them.  We would have to be careful when hiking.

hikers at Lackandarragh Lower hiking trail - wicklow - Ireland

The Lackandarragh Lower hiking trail stretched along the country road for some distance before branching off into the wooded valley below.  The hikers or trekkers soon continued on their way, disappearing from view as they descended a steep decline into the shady forest and the Glencree River.

Gorse growing near hiking trail - Lackandarragh Lower - Wicklow - Ireland

Speaking of hiking, a series of uneven stepping stones surmounted the slope behind us leading to a stile.  The intrigue inherent in that gateway to the beyond certainly tempted Bob and me, but we were unprepared for a hike that day so hopped back in our car and continued on our way.

Yellow Gorse growing near Glencree River - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

Our handy, dandy GPS unit made it possible to change routes on a whim.  Any narrow, one-lane track served to lure us in a new direction.  We were ready for more escapades.

jean watches cars ahead - enniskerry - ireland

Bob and I had a blast just following our noses and let serendipity rule the day.  With the wind in our hair and lilting Irish tunes playing on the radio, any cares we had were distant.

biker and traffic on country road - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

The narrow winding roads in County Wicklow made for exhilarating driving.  We couldn’t believe the speed limits.  They were equal to those on our freeways at home and these on such narrow routes.  Really only wide enough to accommodate one vehicle at a time, numerous instances occurred where either we or oncoming cars had to pull off the road or back up to where the road was wide enough in order for two vehicles to pass.

cars along country road - enniskerry - ireland

How riotous, then, when we caught up to an unusual pale-green pint-sized car that was tailing a 3-wheeled motorcar.  Both were barreling down the roadway with nary a concern for the oncoming traffic.  I had to laugh out loud so comical was the sight…like something right out of a cartoon strip.  At any moment, I expected the little red car might topple over.

Red Messerschmitt KR- 175 microcar -- Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

The 3-wheeled car was a Messerschmitt-KR-175-microcar.  These cars were designed to solve transportation problems during World War II.  Such inexpensive vehicles, with a length of less than 10 feet, were perfect for cash-strapped families to navigate through densely populated cities.  As we were soon to see, it ruled the day against all cars and huge trucks in Ireland.

jean smiles as we drive - enniskerry - wicklow - ireland

Continuing on our journey, I, myself, felt like a character in a storybook…Wind in the Willows, to be exact.  With “Toad” at the wheel, we went careening down the carriageway, our car tenuously gripping the tarmac at each sharp corner.   Steep drop-offs were not an issue, but there were some significant gullies and forests along the way.  There was me, gripping the door handle for fear of flying over the verge (shoulder) into the ditch.

toad and motor car

Toad, as many of you may know, is the eccentric character made famous in the children’s book, The Wind in the Willows.  He was well-known for his erratic driving and flamboyant personality.  Hence, my amusing nickname for Bob.

driving in an irish blur of yellow - Enniskerry - Ireland

bob drives car - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

“Toad” at the wheel…

three wheel car and bikers

For several kilometers, Bob and I were in hot pursuit of the two unique small cars even as cyclists whizzed past us in the opposite direction.

a blur of rocks along roadway - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

There was no room for error.

Red Messerschmitt KR- 175 microcar meets bus - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

At long last, the inevitable happened.  The traffic flow from both directions came head to head, but which vehicle would prevail?

Red Messerschmitt KR- 175 microcar - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

It seemed like a standoff.

Red Messerschmitt KR- 175 microcar meets bus on tight road - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

Fittingly, in the end, the huge Red Mercedes passenger van was forced to back up and give way to the much smaller cars, ours included.

country road with stone wall - near Oonagh Bridge - Enniskerry - Wicklow - Ireland

Once passed that hitch, Bob and I continued merrily on our way back towards Glendalough.  Cruising along, we were amazed at the plethora of ancient stone walls that stood staunchly at roadside and admired crumbling stone buildings for the history that they represented.  Breathing in the sweet smell of fresh spring growth, we felt that life was good.

upper and lower lakes - glendalough - wicklow - ireland

With our afternoon of adventure drawing to an end, we returned to the peaceful setting of Glendalough in the valley of the two lakes.


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